Friday, June 14, 2024

‘It’s pretty much just bad news’: One of Victoria’s last video rental stores announces closure


It’s the end of an era.

On Tuesday, May 23rd, 12 years after the closure of Victoria’s last Blockbuster, the city’s beloved Pic-A-Flic announced they will be closing up shop for good later this year.

In 2018, the city’s longest operating video rental shops vacated their Cook Street location and moved in at 1519 Pandora Avenue due to the rent being too high in their previous home. 

Pic-A-Flic was open for nearly 40 years, but with the economy in the state it’s in and streaming services continuously growing and expanding, the time has come for owner Kent Bendall to call it quits.

“Wish I could say I got good news and bad news, but unfortunately, it’s pretty much just bad news,” said Bendall in a social media post announcing Pic-A-Flic’s closure. 

“For many reasons, obvious and not so obvious, at the end of September, Pic-A-Flic is going to be done.”

Bendall continued by saying the lease is up at the end of September and he just can’t continue anymore. 

Pic-A-Flic will continue business as usual through the summer and Bendall predicts that there will be a massive sale at the end of that time. 

His announcement was equal parts melancholic and jovial, which is the attitude Bendall was known best for having through the near 40 years he’s been running the video rental shop. 

Very soon after the announcement, an online petition was created calling for the Greater Victoria Public Library to purchase the extensive collection which boasts a whopping  10 times more than what the streaming powerhouse Netflix can offer. 

The petition states that at the end of the day Bendall should be applauded for all he has done for the analog community and that he deserves to have autonomy over what happens to the immense collection he has amassed. 

“While he is free to do whatever he has to do to make ends meet, we are asking the Greater Victoria Public Library board to offer him another option: sell the entire collection to the library so it can continue to circulate,” said Jimmy Thomson, the creator of the petition. 

Thomson claims that by keeping the collection circulating through the GVPL, the community who upheld and supported Bendall’s values at Pic-A-Flic will still be able to support local libraries.

The potential for a buyout would trickle down and help the community in many ways that Thompson has laid out. It would help low-income Victorians have access to a vast collection of films and TV shows, it would help the library by saving them time and money collecting these titles from hundreds of other sources, if not thousands and it would help reduce the carbon footprint associated with the ongoing obsolescence of physical copies of media. 

Thomson says there is a precedent with a positive outcome for this action too—a similar situation in Halifax saw a video rental store’s stock bought up by the Halifax Public Libraries and Dalhousie University in 2016. 

“Pic-A-Flic offers 10 times the titles that Netflix offers,” said Thomson. “This is not a quaint anachronism; it’s a trove that’s too important to lose.”

“We cannot allow this collection to be scattered to the winds without having a serious conversation about how it could be permanently housed by the Greater Victoria Public Library.”

The petition can be found online. As of this publication, it has 20 signatures in under 5 hours of its launch. 

With Pic-A-Flic’s closure, Oswego Video Store will be the last of its kind when it comes to physical copy video rentals.

Curtis Blandy

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